Mayors put Fibre-Pontiac on notice - MRC passes $8.5 million balanced budget for 2021

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Added: Wed, 12/02/2020 - 10:17pm
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Fred Ryan

CAMPBELL’S BAY – November 26, Pontiac MRC's Council of Mayors unanimously approved a balanced budget for 2021. Expenses total $8,503,325$ and revenues come to $8,169,944, with a $333,381 surplus carried forward to balance the expenses.
The mayors were able to reduce the property tax rate from .14 to .13 per $100 evaluation. Of the total revenues, Pontiac's 18 municipalities will contribute $3,105,000, and transfer payments from Quebec add $4,275,836. It is interesting to compare with neighbouring MRC des Collines: municipalities there contribute $20,108,250, well above Pontiac's $3 million.
Expenses
The MRC's major expenses for 2021 include over $1.5 million for administration, and almost $5 million for Land Management; the Evaluation department will use almost a million ($946,905). Major expenses remain in animal control, planning, development and forestry management projects, and $292,000 for trails management (PPJ, waterway, etc.). The mayors also approved a grant to the West Quebec Literary Council ($38,000) for reading assistance, TransporAction ($1million), and a one-time $10,000 grant to Bouffe Pontiac to replace their
seasonal funding drive (see page 13).
Mayors also approved dispersements of the $70,000 COVID Recovery Fund (from Quebec) to 16 local businesses, with most businesses receiving about $5,000 each.
Finally, the mayors approved remuneration of the council for 2021. The warden receives $39,076 (base and expenses) and councillors (mayors) each earn $4,083.33. The mayors also set modest mileage and expense account items for council and staff.
In other items, the mayors viewed the new "Destination Pontiac" website, directed to new arrivals and investors, interested people, tourists and visitors, and job seekers. This effort was led by Economic Development Officer Cyndy Phillips, assisted by mayors Larivière and Sunstrum. This is one element in Ms Phillips' Territorial Marketing Project.
Forestry consultant  and Fibre-Pontiac
The mayors' sole important difference of opinion came with two resolutions concerning the Fibre-Pontiac file and the MRCs forestry consultant contract.  Warden Jane Toller and several mayors were clearly frustrated with the lack of progress on getting the Bio-parc project in full operation, especially the Fibre-Pontiac file. Fibre-Pontiac is to research and put into operation a diversified project to recover value from forestry by-products. The Fibre-Pontiac file has been in the works for 8 years, under forestry consultant Pierre Vezina, and council wants to bring this long process to fruition (or to close the file). The two resolutions want a conclusion to the major funding drive (about $20 million) from the federal government, and a commitment from a private company to locate their wood recovery facility in the Pontiac.
Warden Toller sees a "lack of oversight" by the consultant as leading to the ongoing delays. The mayors came to a deadlock of nine votes for and nine against, with the Warden breaking the tie in favour of both resolutions. One company, Renmatix, does this type of recovery work, but they remain undecided among sites in upper New York, Maine, or the Pontiac. Now the consultant and the company will have to confirm federal funding and the company's choice of the Pontiac before the MRC moves ahead with any further support. So far the project has cost $800,000 for salaries and expenses, and MP Will Amos has confirmed his "total support" for the federal aid.
Several mayors felt these conditions are "investor threatening" rather than "investor attracting", but others believe eight years of effort should show more results. The warden noted this is "our first controversial vote in public". 
New life for
Pontiac Sorting Centre?
The warden and several mayors have met the owner of the Pontiac Sorting Centre and toured the facility in Litchfield. The owner, Mr Gauvreau, claims Quebec's environment ministry is making "impossible demands", and he cannot re-open under these new conditions. The mayors resolved to ask the environment ministry to resume discussions with the operator, especially for construction wastes. MRC Pontiac feels that shipping these wastes to the Lachute landfill now costs even
more, and is harmful to the environment. The Centre wants permission to separate out useful materials from construction wastes before anything is shipped out to a landfill.
Mayor Newberry raised problems with the 911 operators in Chelsea, who do not know the Pontiac's addresses. Mining operations in certain areas remain suspended.  The MRC Regional Art Collection has been seeking submissions for acquisition (with none submitted), and the Agricultural Immigration program received support from the mayors. 
The next Council of Mayors meeting will be held December 16.